Indian ethos is all about moderation, not given to excesses, and will certainly endure the present onslaught by communal forces, said Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra here on Saturday, categorically rejecting the “idea of hyper-nationalism being thrust upon by the Centre”.
In a heated discussion with Desh Ratan Nigam of RSS during the session on ‘Jingoism and Hyper Nationalism – An Indian perspective’ on the second day of the ongoing Military Literature Festival, Moitra, while accepting that the Opposition had been caught unawares by the “unleashing of hate and communal agenda by BJP”, called for a comprehensive counter narrative to “negate the nefarious designs of these inimical forces”.
“Any nationalism which teaches me to treat my nation above God is not acceptable to me,” she said, invoking Rabindranath Tagore. She added that aggressive dependence on religion demonstrates abject failure of ruling BJP on all major fronts.
Moitra said that there was a vast difference between patriotism and nationalism and that while patriotism was an innate love for the country which was intuitive, hypernationalism was an effort to try and create an artificial energy to cut out critical engagement and say that you are either with us or against us.
“Hypernationalism creates dark forces in which everyone is supposed to hate. Nationalism, as defined by complete lack of reasonable engagement, is not needed,” she added.
Taking part in the discussion, panelist and RSS ideologue Desh Ratan Nigam stated that the Indian Constitution was originally not supposed to be secular and it was only with the 42nd Amendment in 1976 that the word ‘secular’ was inserted during the Emergency. He also said that the Indian concept of nationalism has spirituality in it and that under this concept, no one has been excluded.
“I do not think there is anything like jingoism, nationalism or hyper-nationalism. These are western concepts. A soldier can work on an empty stomach but not without nationalism,” he said.
The Article on fundamental duties, he further said, enjoins upon all of us to protect the national culture and heritage. It was Indira Gandhi who introduced the idea of nationalism by incorporating Article 51 A in our Constitution, he added.
The session was moderated by senior journalist Mark Tully and witnessed many impassioned exchanges with the audience.
Responding to a question, Nigam accepted that the concept of nationalism was being misused by some vested interests who were using it for their political gains. “I don’t subscribe to this term nationalism,” Nigam said, adding that ‘Bhartiyata’ is what encompasses all dimensions of Indian cultural belief where no one is superior and all are equal.
Asked if he had any Hindu or Sikh friends, Nigam said that he had many friends from these religions.
He said there were 12 lakh Muslims in RSS. Asked why not even a single Muslim out of the 12 Lakh in RSS was given a ticket by BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, Nigam said that winnability of a candidate was an issue.
Earlier, while initiating the discussion, Mark Tully said, “We are seeing a rising tide of nationalism around the world. It can be misused for a political purpose as has been seen in the 20th century.”